Choosing a Telescope for a Child

Recommendation 4: Choose a Dobsonian mount
There are three basic types of mounts and all are popular among stargazers. An alt-az mount, which is short for altitude-azimuth, is very easy to use because it allows movement of the telescope in ways that seem natural: up/down (altitude) and left/right (azimuth).

The dobsonian mount, the second type, is really just a variant of the alt-az mount. It offers the same movements but its simpler and more robust design tends to make it less expensive and more stable.

An equatorial mount, the third type, has very different movements. This mount is designed to be aligned with earth's axis of rotation by pointing precisely to Polaris, the star directly above the North Pole. When combined with motors, it allows the telescope to track a target while earth rotates making it the mount of choice for astrophotography. But these are complicated to use and good ones often cost more than the telescopes they support.

We recommend a dobsonian mount for a child's first telescope. Most of the telescopes we use at Starry Hill use this type. Unfortunately, many stores -- including dedicated telescope stores -- sell beginner telescopes on cheap equatorial mounts without motors that are often wobbly and frustrating to use. As cool as they may look, we strongly recommend that you avoid these.